Thursday, November 12, 2015

Handful of IFcomp 2015 Entry Reviews

This year's Interactive Fiction Competition has a very large number of entries. I knew I wouldn't be able to play them all online, so I picked a few at random that had interesting descriptions. I ended up playing through and reviewing Crossroads, Life on Mars, Laid off from the Synesthesia Factory, Much Love, BJP, The Sueno, and Taghairm. I played a few others that I just could not finish either because I couldn't get into them or I glanced at the walkthough after a few turns and decided I didn't want to play though the game. Of course, I'll only be voting for the ones I've finished and reviewed here. There might be spoilers here, so if you are afraid of seeing any now is the time to look elsewhere!

Reviews being after the stars...

*    *    *    *    *


Interesting description, so trying this first. This Twine game was sort of interesting, but wasn’t interesting enough to play though again. I was expecting the text to be more graphic than it was due to the content warning. One typo I found that may be deprecated: “sand” where an “and” should be.


Scrolling thru the entries further so I don’t end up playing titles in the lower portion of the alphabet. Huh. A speed setting. And another content warning.. which is seems like a bit of a spoiler. There’s also a recommended playlist. While I like old Satyricon and some Aphex Twin songs, the two don’t seem to go together well if there should be a consistent mood to the game.

Spatterlight crashed when trying to use the email function, so I build Frotz from the latest source and ran the game in that. The email thing works now though, and I can see the text speed effect now which is pretty neat. Now, on to the actual game.

There aren’t a lot of rooms to explore, but given the setting there shouldn’t be. Using the “email” function seems to be the main thing driving the game until I get prompted that taking a nap might be a good idea. After the nap, more email and a robot needs my assistance. There wasn’t much more after that. Wasn’t too crazy about the ending. The game was mostly on-rails showing off a lot of text effects; the latter of which does make this a pretty cool little adventure.


And here we have another game with both a content warning and a recommended playlist. It promises to generate a readable, static story once I reach the end and also claims to be both short and completely puzzle-less. X GREEN. X BRAIN (surprised that one gave a response). CALL BRIAN (Huh. A response, but nothing that seems to be relevent). EXIT. Ah, that makes more sense.. DRIVE TO LAKE. Eh. PAINT LAKE. Ha! Myrtle Beach reference! God, how I’ve come to loathe that place since the arcade went to shit and they tore down the rides. Also, South of the Border! My family never did fall for that trap either though I also remember counting the signs as a kid.

Now I think I have a good idea of what this synpiece is.. but having it on while driving certainly feels wrong. I guess that depends on if I can still make out things or if the road is going to look chunky and crooked as it tastes. (That’s a synthestisia joke.) I end up at a lake with Brian where a “compromise” is met. I guess I got the OK ending. This was a neat little game and I’ll probably give it another play after the comp. I liked how it started completely abstract and hard to follow yet then started to make sense. I would gripe about things not being more explained, but I have the same gripe about the previous title I reviewed and this one at least warrants another play to perhaps tell more of the same story from different angles.


Another Twine entry. This one is just basically what feels like newspaper articles linked by verb hyperlinks. Not many of them, either. Not many choices here. While the story of the reporter in this one is inspiring and all, it’s rather political and if anything, this title warranted more of a “content warning” than the other 2.. though overall I think content warnings are stupid.


A game about a sleep study and lucid dreaming. This should be interesting. I’m not sure if I’ll ever finish the lucid dreaming game I made a prototype for.

We start out with good descriptions and all, but feels like I’m waiting in the sleep lab forever. Hm. I “look” in the Sleep Lab again after waiting many turns. I haven’t been prompted to do anything. Dr. Lynch is just “here, clipboard in hand”. I scroll back to look at all of the talking topics and ask about those. Still waiting. Oh. Consulting the walk thru says I really should ask about medication. OK, here we go. Going to try to not look at the walkthrough again now.

I can’t read or take the Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie catalog?! No such thing?! Bah. Anyway, a few fairly simple puzzles progress the game along various snippets of moving through a house, some woods, and a town; separated by cutscenes of the doctor conducting the study interrupting your sleep with questions.

The inventory and puzzles in this game felt a bit clunky, but overall not a bad game and worth a play. I ended up returning to the walkthrough again a couple of times despite the suggestion that I should try not looking at it at all.


Another Twine game, but very different from any other I have encountered. Cool sounds add a neat atmosphere. Around the time I started to think “Well crap. Just like every other Twine game. Not many choices or forcing me to make choices I don’t want to make to finish the story.”, something neat happened when I clicked the forced answer a few times. It actually explained what in the world was the purpose of this, and in a cool way. I was surprised to enjoy this one. Cat lovers will probably hate it.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Day In DPRK demo released

After stabbing at this project off and on for three years, I'm finally releasing a demo to the public now that the foundation is in place. While this demo is not the final version, it demonstrates the system and sets the story into motion. I welcome people to try it out and if you have time send some feedback on the game either by email or commenting here. I'll try to update this demo if bad bugs are found and will note the version in the file name.

Again, please note that this is only about a third of the final game. I'm just eager to release a chunk of it to go ahead and start getting some feedback.

Here is what I would like to know from the test:

  1. What about the system of the game (parser, graphics, sound, etc) did you like or dislike? 
  2. What could you not do and wanted to be able to do? (What was missing?)
  3. Did you find any bugs or anything otherwise broken?
  4. And most importantly, are you interested in a final version of this?
Click here to download the demo and the program needed to play it from my website.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Redesign & Reflection on History of the Lab

 If you have visited this site before a couple of days ago, you may notice that things have been changed around a bit. Then again, you probably have not because I've neglected until today to have Google crawl the new site or even update Google Analytics to reflect the new URL, which should stay the same for quite some time unless I ever actually buy a domain or sells out. I've changed a lot to make things more flexible and more mobile-friendly. Some new sections to "Projects" will be added soon for my other projects, and there will also soon be a new page for the DPRK game. 

 Lab of Jizaboz was originally created in 1999 on a hosting site that offered free webspace called "50 megs". At the time I was working as a web producer for a local newspaper. My job at the time basically was importing tiffs off macs via a zip drive, importing them as jpegs and resizing them, and slapping HTML tags all around raw text dumps originally generated on ATEX machines. After it all looked good locally, I FTP'd it to the webserver and went home around 2:00 am. The website was a way of me having some sort of Internet presence as well as practice and learn new things for my job.

An ATEX terminal

 The site originally featured a tombstone in a dreary graveyard, with the words "THE UNDERGROUND LAB OF JIZABOZ" plastered across it. Of course there was MIDI music, a track called "devil" I found off some Halloween-related site with midi files and gifs flashing all over.  I had a main navigation menu table I had basically ripped off of at the time across the top with the URLS to my different sections, with slashes between them. The original content mainly consisted of random things I typed up about computers and video games, links to other sites, downloads for emulators and roms, and pictures of large, topless girls. The latter ended up getting me in a bit of trouble once I finally got a cable ISP and moved my site to their "free" website space.

 Eventually, once was actually producing things like my Doom 2 mod, maps for games, etc, all real "content" there became what I had made either by myself or with the help of a team. While the site has changed structure, domain names and types of content numerous times, the basic premise remains the same; this is my presence on the Internet, not Facebook.